A Merseyside woman receiving breast cancer care from The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust has benefited from a treatment that is being rolled out across the NHS to dramatically reduce the amount of time that patients need to spend in hospital.
Paula Lamb, 51, from Newton-le-Willows, is one of the first patients to receive the Phesgo treatment since NHS England began rolling it out.
Phesgo combines two treatments – pertuzumab and trastuzumab
– that are currently given separately into a single injection. Instead of having each drug separately as an intravenous infusion (i.e. via a drip) that can take up to two-and-a-half hours, Phesgo only takes around five minutes to prepare and administer a single injection into the thigh.
Paula was prescribed the treatment by her consultant at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre following a NHS England deal with the manufacturer to make it available at no extra cost. Phesgo will now be offered to all eligible patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, which accounts for 15% of all cases. It can be given alongside chemotherapy or by itself.
Paula was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2014 and has been receiving trastuzamab and pertuzamab regularly since then. Along with radiotherapy, surgery and other treatments, it has proved very effective at managing her cancer but it has involved her spending around two hours in hospital every three weeks.
Now she can get the same benefits from an injection that only takes a few minutes. Paula had her first Phesgo treatment last Wednesday (31
st March) at the Lilac Centre at St Helen’s Hospital, where there is a clinic for patients from The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre who live in the local area.
The treatment will now be rolled out across England to around 3,600 newly-diagnosed patients each year, along with other patients like Paula who are currently receiving the same drugs by infusion.
It is the latest in a series of NHS innovations in cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as reducing the amount of time patients need to spend in hospital, Phesgo also frees up clinical time and chemotherapy treatment chairs for other people receiving cancer care.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and wider NHS has continued providing cancer care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, 228,000 people in England have started NHS treatment for cancer, 95% of whom did so within a month. Hospitals across England have also carried out more than two cancer procedures for every patient they treated for coronavirus in 2020.
Patient Paula Lamb, 51, from Newton-le-Willows, said:
“It feels amazing to be one of the first people to receive this treatment through this NHS scheme. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, I was put onto pertuzumab and trastuzumab, along with chemotherapy, and I responded so well that I no longer needed a hip operation to deal with secondary tumours in the bones there. It’s great that I can now get the same drugs in one injection that only takes a few minutes.”
Dr Helen Innes, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, who is caring for Paula, said:
“We are always looking at how we can enhance care and make it more convenient for patients. We were one of the first NHS hospitals to offer patients a ‘chemotherapy at home’ service led by our nurses. I am delighted that we are now able to offer Phesgo through this new initiative, which means patients like Paula can have the same treatment in a much more convenient way for them.”
NHS national clinical director for cancer, Peter Johnson, said:
“The NHS has continued to adopt new treatments rapidly throughout the pandemic, to improve cancer care for patients. This new injection, which can substantially cut treatment time for people with breast cancer, is the latest in a series of changes which have meant the NHS has been able to deliver vital cancer treatment while keeping patients safe from Covid.
“I am delighted that this is now available to people having breast cancer treatment, limiting the time they need to spend in hospital and giving the NHS another way to continue treating as many cancer patients as possible, as we have done throughout the pandemic.”
Background from NHS England
PHESGO is a fixed-dose combination of pertuzumab with trastuzumab that previously would have been given as separate IV infusions. Latest figures show some 200,940 urgent cancer referrals were also made by GPs in England in December, up from 187,811 in December 2019 – a rise of 7%.
Hospitals carried out more than two cancer procedures for every patient they treated for coronavirus in 2020. 25,199 people started cancer treatment in December, 555 more than in the same month the previous year.
From the start of the pandemic to the end of December, there were 228,483 first treatments, 95% of which started within one month. In total, 434,364 cancer treatments were carried out between March and December 2020 – 89% of the level in 2019. First treatments for cancer (from all diagnosis routes) were at 102% of the level they were in December 2019 (25,199 first cancer treatments were carried out in Dec 2020). (Source: CWT)